Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mike Vick deserves another chance

Now that Michael Vick is a free man, it’s up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to determine his future in the league. The ball is in his hands and it’s his call if he’ll toss it back to Vick to see if any team wants to play.

It’s no lie that Goodell has a quick trigger on anybody who threatens the image of the NFL regardless of guilt. Put yourself in a bad position and good chance, you’re gonna get a call from the commish that won’t be pleasant. There’d be no surprise if the commissioner suspended him for a year in addition to the 23 months he served in jail.

But what kills me is people actually debating if he deserves a second chance. It’s people acting like what Vick did was so reprehensible that he should never be forgiven. And yes, people drove me nuts with their overboard indignation two years ago…it reminded me that animals matter more to people than actual people.

Let me lay out reasons why Vick deserves a chance to see if any NFL teams will take a pass on him. Notice I said take a pass – if he tries out and fails, then that is on him. Anyways…

1. He paid his debt to society. The essential facts, my dear readers. Does every criminal released from jail deserve to be shunned with no chance for redemption? Vick did his time and should have the same chance to find work like anybody else.

2. Yes, playing in the NFL is a privilege, but apparently it’s a privilege not denied to far worse offenders. What Leonard Little (two drunk driving offenses, including one manslaughter) and Pacman Jones have done are IMO far worse than what Vick did and yet they are still playing. If they got more than two chances, why can’t Vick – who had a fairly clean record before this incident happened.

*I didn’t mention Donte Stallworth for good reason. Stallworth pled guilty to manslaughter for killing a pedestrian while driving intoxicated. While that accident is indeed terrible, he handled it better than most athletes I’ve seen. Didn’t flee the scene, pled guilty, cooperated with police, accepted responsibility and his punishment and appears to be genuinely sorry for what he did (no driver’s license, 2 years of house arrest, 8 years probation and community service in addition to that 30 days in jail)

Also the victim was jaywalking, which does not excuse Stallworth for being stupid and an idiot, but in the eyes of the court, that would have been a factor in the specific charges against him. This doesn’t change that he was just as reckless as Vick, but he has been punished sufficiently. *

There are those who say Vick should be banned for life. There are those who will protest at every arena he’s at. What he did was heinous but he did not commit a crime against humanity. I’ve been a dog owner all my life and if you believe that Vick should not play football again because he ran a dogfighting ring, you need to get your priorities straight. I won't get into the bigger issues here (some Americans love pets often more than people) but it's not worse than what Kobe Bryant was accused of.

I believe violent crimes against humans (i.e. rape/murder) are far worse than what happens to beasts. Being accused of rape is a bigger deal than torturing dogs - both are heinous but let's get real. Then again, this is a nation that cried when Barbaro the horse died after his story was beyond played out.

I’m sad that Americans who believe in second chances want to deny someone another chance to play football. Vick is not a danger to society at large.

Vick should have the opportunity to attempt to regain what he lost. There is no reason why he shouldn’t and if you don’t believe he should, you must be a perfect person who never needed a second chance. Regardless of the level of your crime, if you do your time and have shown contrition and willingness to leave it behind, you have earned the legal right to redeem your life.

Does that mean that every criminal deserves to be hired at the first job they apply to? No, and of course people are not going to be receptive to everyone fresh out of jail. That’s expected and if teams turn down Michael Vick, like I said, he did that to himself. But I hope some team will take a chance and if not, there’s always the UFL coming up – which isn’t a bad fit.

No. 7 screwed up and screwed up big time – the biggest fall from grace since O.J. Simpson. My Vick jersey remains tossed somewhere around the house where it will remain. But if Kobe Bryant can regain his good name, respect and endorsements five years after his rape trial, Ray Lewis can become one of the respected elder statesmen in football after his 2000 trial and Michael Irvin an example of how to discuss your flaws like a man, then Vick deserves that same opportunity.

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